by Curtis James
Augustine Fong was born on the island of Macao, off the coast of southern China. Since his early childhood, he has had a special interest in the Chinese martial arts. In 1960, he was fortunate enough to begin training in a traditional gung fu style. His instructor was the honorable Wing Chun master, Ho Kam Ming. Master Ho, a top student of the late grand master Yip Man, had, at that time, introduced the style to the Macao area. Augustine Fong, without a second thought, became one of his first students.
By 1964, master Ho’s school had grown considerably. The school had gained a reputation, so good, in fact, that a famous gung-fu school from Hong Kong decided to send a formal challenge. Challenges, back then, were very serious business. The challenging school, in this case, had also obtained an impressive name and reputation. It was undersood that they had fought and won over a hundred contests in this manner, and as a result, defeated a number of top schools in Hong Kong. Accepting the written challenge, master Ho decided that Fong would fight the match. Fong was master Ho’s best student and toughest fighter. On the appointed day, the challenger appeared along with his instructor and ten fellow students.
Out of courtesy, the challenger’s sifu was appointed the referee. The match was to consist of three rounds, with the only rule being you could not step out of the fighting area. During the fight, Fong dominated his opponent. In the second round, he became very aggressive, driving the challenger into a mok jeong (wooden dummy). In the third and final round, Fong continued his advantage, chasing and punching his opponent into a wall. Reeling off the wall, the challenger fell into a well-timed punch and was knocked unconscious. Without a word, his sifu and si dai picked him up and carried him out. Master Ho’s school, through Fong’s victory, had upheld its reputation. Fong, because of the encounter, became quite well known throughout Hong Kong and Macao. In Macao he is still known as Wing Chun’s “Gum-Pai Da-Sau,” or “Golden Ribbon Boxer.”
Following this incident, many new students, hearing of the school’s reputation, decided to enroll. To help with the increasing number of students, Fong was asked to assist master Ho in teaching. This was quite an honor for the young Fong. But instead of passing on the good news to his family, he chose to keep it to himself. His mother, during this time, was a very strict woman. Her opinion of the arts was not altogether high. She felt that skill in gung fu would only get one into trouble. So, instead of worrying his mother, Fong had decided from the beginning, to keep his skill a secret. And did he ever! For thirteen years, his mother never new that he was practicing the art of Wing Chun!
During this period, sifu Fong began studying under the Chinese herbalist, sifu Wong Bing Gong. Sifu Wong had learned his art from a monk and was well known for his healing ability. During World War II, he used his knowledge to cure a great many people. Sifu Wong taught Fong how to use “Dit Da” massage to heal broken bones and to treat bruises, strains, and sprains. Sifu Wong also taught him how to prepare herbs, and their medicinal remedies, all of which was valuable knowledge for a practitioner of the martial art.
In 1967, due to civil disturbances in Macao, Augustine Fong moved to Kowloon, Hong Kong. There, his instructor, master Ho, opened a Wing Chun school, where Fong practiced and taught for two years. Then, in 1969, following his father’s footsteps, sifu Fong immigrated to America. Moving to Nogales, Arizona, and then settling in Tucson, sifu Fong soon began to teach and promote the Wing Chun style. In Tucson, he accepted a position teaching self-defense for the city. The program worked out so well, that in 1973, prompted by his students and friends, he opened his own school. This was the first public Wing Chun school in the southwestern United States!
Today, with over twenty years of experience in the art, sifu Fong is considered to be among the top Wing Chun masters in the world. Not only is he a highly qualified Wing Chun instructor, but he is also well-versed in a wide variety of weapons. Wing Chun itself, has two weapons forms: the Six and 1/2 Point Long Staff and the Bot Jaam Do (Butterfly Knives). Besides these two weapons, sifu Fong is also highly skilled in the use of the Kuan Do, Three Sectional Staff, Spear, Half Moon, and Tiger Fork, to name a few. Sifu Fong, following Chinese tradition, also performs the southern Lion Dance which he learned from sifu Chan Gin Man. Sifu Chan, who lives in Kowloon, Hong Kong, teaches the Hung Sing Choi Lee Fut style of lion dance.
Sifu Fong has given martial arts demonstrations and performed lion dances throughout Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. He has organized two Martial Arts Exhibitions in Tucson, both very successful. Sifu Fong has appeared on numerous local television shows, as well as in articles published by “Inside Kung Fu” and “Black Belt” magazines. Currently, he operates a school in Tucson and an affiliated school in Phoenix, Arizona.